November 4th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
I’m serving a special five-course meal to the intellectually challenged members of Congress who support Big Agribusiness and predatory insurance companies over the health and safety of the American people.
Let’s review the menu:
First Course: Double Cheeseburger
Sourced from: San Diego Meat Co. On Oct. 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared a Class I recall on 925 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli.
As a refresher, dear legislators, a Class I recall is defined as “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
Cases of ground beef patties and bulk ground beef were shipped to restaurants and caterers in San Diego. Fly to SoCal, and eat up, guys! You can barf later on Shamu.
Second Course: Beef Tongue
Sourced from: Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., Milwaukee. The affected 5,522 pounds, recalled Oct. 17, may include tonsils, which means the company failed to comply with USDA regulations. Tongue tissue may be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad-cow disease).
No worries, guys. It’s a Class II recall, which means there’s a “remote probability of adverse consequences.” You like to gamble with people’s lives, so dig in!
Third Course: Chicken & Apple Sausage
Sourced from: Vatran’s Fine Foods, Inc., Tracy, Calif. Approximately 11,500 pounds of assorted meat and poultry products were recalled on Oct. 16 because they were produced without the benefit of federal inspection. It’s another high-risk Class I recall, affecting pork, chicken, turkey and lamb sausages, as well as veal frankfurters and other products. Chow down, wieners!
Fourth Course: Beef Butt Steak
Sourced from: Crocetti’s Oakdale Packing Co. (doing business as South Shore Meats, Inc.), Brockton, MA. Some 1,039 pounds of fresh ground beef patties derived from bench trim, as well as mechanically tenderized beef cuts, may be contaminated with E. coli. The USDA declared a Class I recall on Oct. 26. Hope that nice slab of butt is extra juicy!
Fifth Course: Meatballs
Sourced from: Fairbank Farms, Ashville, NY. This is a biggie: a Class I recall Oct. 31 of 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products. This one aggravates me even more because it includes Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Fine Quality Meats and the Wild Harvest Natural brand. So far, 28 people have been sickened, and at least one person has died.
You’re expected to clean your plates. Luckily, you have great health insurance—you know, the kind of coverage you refuse to provide to your constituents.
Read More:Serving Spoiled Meat to Lawmakers
October 19th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
In the United Kingdom, just like here in the United States, organic meat comes at a premium. In Britain, roughly a 30% to 40% mark-up.
So if you’re paying that much more, you expect some high-quality organic meat, and not plain old stuff with a fancy label.
But British consumers might have been duped. Authorities are investigating whether or not regular beef at one slaughterhouse was “mislabeled” as organic.
Turns out the bogus meat may have actually been imported, instead of homegrown.
Officials urge there are no health risks stemming from the meat, just that a bunch of consumers could have been duped. The meat in question has already been pulled from supermarket shelves.
The meat manufacturer under scrutiny has already been fined for breaches in effluent regulations, i.e. waste water, and failing to use proper equipment, but is cooperating with the current investigation.
I believe there were shenanigans going on. Call me a skeptic, but if you put a whole bunch of corporate suits in a room when money is involved, rules get bent and people look the other way.
Via The Times Online.
Image credit: Letter Jay
Read More:British Police Investigating “Mislabeled” Organic Meat
October 8th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Last Sunday, the New York Times published E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection, in which reporter Michael Moss informs us that “eating ground beef is still a gamble.”
The newspaper obtained corporate records that indict our broken food-safety system. E. coli remains an ever-present threat, which is bad news for a nation that loves its burgers.
”The majority of E. coli comes into processing plants on the hides of grain-fed feedlot cattle and in their guts,” says Allen Williams, PhD, chief operating officer at Tallgrass Beef, a producer of grass-fed meats. “Most beef in the United States comes from cattle that are fattened on grain in feedlots. Grain diets alter the rumen pH in the gut to allow the acid-resistant bacteria, such as pathogenic E. coli bacteria, to grow and thrive.
“Grass-fed cattle are much less prone to the pathogenic forms of E. coli that usually lead to sickness and recalls,” he adds. “Since 100% of grass-fed cattle are fed only forage diets and raised in the pasture, they are clean inside and out.”
If you enjoy a good burger and haven’t yet switched to grass-fed organic beef, now’s the time. Burger lovers can follow my mom’s example.
Read More:Ground Beef “Still a Gamble”
August 31st, 2009 - Laura Klein
I’m a huge proponent of grass-fed beef, from birth to market (not finished on grains). Cows, biologically, are created to graze on grass – not feast on nutrient-poor grains. Grain-fed beef is the result of large agribusinesses wanting to fatten up cows as quickly as possible, regardless of the harm it does to their health (not to mention how grain diminishes the nutritional quality of the meat consumers wind up eating!).
Another reason I love grass-fed beef is that it’s simply cleaner.
Feedlot cattle stand all day long in dirt and manure. You can imagine how much harder it is to remove all the fecal contamination given that scenario.
Pasture-raised animals are much easier to clean “because they come from small herds raised in relatively clean pastures,” according to Meat Marketing and Technology’s associate editor. Most U.S. cattle, he said, “are raised in far larger numbers in congested and typically less sanitary feed lots.”1
The E. coli Question
E. coli contamination occurs when manure from an animal comes in contact with meat in the slaughterhouse. The less manure on an animal when it enters the slaughter house, the less likely the meat will become contaminated.
Some studies show that grass-feeding (vs. grain feeding) may reduce the number and acidity of E. coli in the digestive tract of cattle.
Another study shows that E. coli from grass-fed cattle is more likely to be killed by the natural acidity of our digestive tract and therefore might be less likely to survive and make us ill. The reason for the greater persistence of E. coli from grain-fed cattle, the researchers speculated, is that feeding grain to cattle makes their digestive tracts abnormally acidic. Over time, the E. coli in their systems become acclimated to this acid environment. When we ingest them, a high percentage will survive the acid shock of our digestive juices. By contrast, few E. coli from grass-fed cattle will survive because they have not become acid-resistant.2
Science and the Senate: HR 2749
Time after time, scientific evidence proves that it’s industrialized animals that spread E.Coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella. Let’s hope that the senate, who will soon be voting on HR 2749 – the so-called Food Safety Enhancement Act – take these types of facts into consideration.
1“The Future of Food Safety,” by Joshua Lipsky. Meat Marketing and Technology, April 2001
2 Russell and Diez-Gonzalez (Microbes Infect 2, No. 1 (2000): 45-53.)
Read More:Don’t Eat Dirty Meat!
August 17th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
They call it “bench trim”—remnants from steaks and other cuts of meat that are used to make ground beef.
In an attempt to prevent E. coli outbreaks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service has issued a guidance that amps up inspection efforts. Inspectors would begin taking samples of bench trim, which is not routinely tested, during site visits.
According to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, the guidance—which would apply to mainstream and organic meat producers—represents a shift from a reactive (dealing with outbreaks) to a proactive (preventing contamination) agenda.
In recent years, E. coli has been responsible for numerous outbreaks. The bacterium can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and kidney failure. Most susceptible to infection are children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Consumer groups, lawmakers and the Obama administration have demanded FDA reforms and an overhaul of our antiquated food safety system.
Read More:A Safer Beef Supply?
August 15th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
OK, get your mind out of the gutter. Let’s get down to business.
Lest you believe I routinely champion the all-American hot dog, let me voice my support for one of the Cancer Project’s important causes: purging hot dogs from school lunch menus.
Adults can make their own dietary choices—the good and the bad, the ugly and the “wurst.” As I wrote Tuesday about the Denny’s excess-sodium lawsuit: “Eating a Denny’s Scramble is a personal decision. Eating a healthy organic diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is a more sensible one.”
Children, however, are captive audiences. I’ve long decried the insufferable advertising campaigns that fast-food chains have conducted to McBribe them. The Cancer Project also condemns such tactics, and I applaud their lobbying efforts to send school-supplied hot dogs straight to detention.
“As a physician in the Greater Philadelphia area, I have seen unhealthful foods increasingly contribute to Pennsylvania’s epidemic of obesity and other medical problems, especially in our young,” says family practitioner Ana M. Negrón, MD, a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). “Sadly, this problem is occurring nationwide. Hot dogs and other processed meats contain artery-clogging fat and cholesterol.”
PCRM petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October “to stop offering processed meats for purchase, subsidy and reimbursement under the federal school breakfast and lunch programs,” Dr. Negrón says. “The petition asks the USDA to encourage schools to include alternatives to processed meat products.”
“When parents, schools and doctors come together and demand more fresh fruits, carrots, broccoli and other vegetables; nutritious meatless options, such as rice and beans, oats and other whole grains; and model healthful nutrition, the children will learn to demand it for themselves,” she concludes. “In the meantime, it’s up to the adults to ensure that children are making healthier choices.”
For resources on changing your school district’s menu options, visit Chef Ann Cooper’s website. The “renegade lunch lady,” who sat on the National Organic Standards Board, has issued a National School Food Challenge.
Read More:Pull the Wieners
August 12th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
New Jersey seems to be the new hotbed for food-related litigation.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Denny’s excess-sodium lawsuit. Now, three Garden State residents are suing Nathan’s Famous, Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer, Sara Lee, ConAgra Foods and Marathon Enterprises for failure to place warning labels on the hot dogs they produce.
As I reported in May 2008, American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) scientists found that consumption of processed meat (ham, sausage, bacon, cold cuts) raises one’s risk for colorectal cancer.
The class-action suit seeks to compel all five companies to place cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey. The labels would read: “Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer.”
“Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer,” says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Cancer Project, which filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information.”
But the AICR and Cancer Project, an affiliate of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, have a tense history—what the former has called a “furious PR battle between two conflicting interest groups.” As we reported last August, AICR believes PCRM is spinning the data to promote an anti-meat agenda.
According to the data, every 50-gram serving of processed meat (roughly one hot dog) eaten per day increases colorectal cancer risk by 21%. This means that people who eat a hot dog every day have a 21% higher risk of colorectal cancer than if they never eat hot dogs.
According to the AICR’s official statement, the research “does not suggest…that an occasional hot dog at a ballgame, or a slice of ham at Easter, will cause colon cancer. What the evidence does show is that making processed meats an everyday part of the diet, as many Americans do, poses clear and serious risks. That is why AICR now recommends avoiding hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, cold cuts and other processed meats.”
The AICR is not taking a position on the New Jersey lawsuit.
My take: Hot dogs are by no means a healthful food, but they can be done right. Just ask San Francisco and L.A. residents who flock to Let’s Be Frank, which serves hot dogs that are free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates and nitrites. Uncured franks are made from 100% grass-fed beef and organic spices. Italian sausages and bratwurst are made from family-farmed, humanely raise pork. Enjoy in moderation, dawg.
Read More:Should Hot Dogs Carry Warning Labels?
August 5th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Food historian and self-described “full red-blooded carnivore” Betty Fussell understands that Americans are “caught up in the romance of beef.”
As she writes in Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef:
I felt that when I ate steak, I was sinking my teeth into the myth of the Frontier—the Marlboro cowboy busting his bronc, the cast-iron skillet on an open fire, the smell of tobacco and burnt coffee, a soft neigh or two from a tethered horse, the clank of a metal spur, the wheeze of a harmonica, a black sky full of stars.
But Fussell also acknowledges the stark realities of factory farms and slaughterhouses, animal cruelty, E. coli, mad cow disease and the toll meat production takes on our environment.
She talks with folks like Connie and Doc Hatfield of Country Natural Beef, who prove it’s possible to raise cattle humanely, without feeding them hormones or antibiotics, and without polluting the environment.
This makes Raising Steaks a fascinating anthropological read for organic foodies, whether you’re a meat eater, vegetarian or flexitarian.
Read More:Raising Steaks
July 6th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
People don’t realize. Not only are meat and dairy unhealthy, but rearing, producing and transporting them is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s the World Wildlife Fund is proposing a new initiative. Label red meat and dairy products advising people to consume no more than three portions a week, to help cut their carbon footprint.
Advocates of the plan would also like to see less meat used in ready-made meals.
Now, the WWF is not telling people to dump meat all together, but rather, they’re encouraging people to eat less for the sake of the environment.
But still, the idea brought the crazies out of the woodwork. Officials at Dairy UK said the WWF wants to take one of the most popular foods off stores shelves. Meanwhile, the WWF said nothing of the sort.
And the British Meat Processors Association argued all food production has a carbon footprint and it’s not fair to single any one out. However, it’s widely known that raising livestock emits WAY more greenhouse gas than vegetable farming.
Now, this highlights the issue. What’s more important, profits or the health of our planet? It should be a no-brainer.
Via Food Navigator.
Read More:Using Labels to Curb Meat and Dairy Consumption
June 30th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Right before Memorial Day, as Americans prepared for holiday barbecues, I informed you of a recall involving 96,000 pounds of ground beef potentially contaminated with E. coli.
Now, with Fourth of July barbecues only days away, we face another beef recall. JBS Swift Beef Co., based in Greeley, CO, has recalled approximately 380,000 pounds of assorted beef products that may be contaminated with E coli. Not surprisingly, its a huge factory farm.
Once again, this is a Class I recall, defined as “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
The CDC is investigating 24 illnesses in multiple states; 18 appear to be associated with the recalled beef.
The beef products were produced on April 21 and were distributed both nationally and internationally. Click here for a PDF file that lists recalled products.
As noted yesterday, multiple recalls have eroded consumer confidence in the food industry.
From Our Organic Blog: DIY Ground Beef
Read More:New Beef Recall Announced